Prairie Fire Review - Power Plays

Prairie Fire Review of Books
Reviewed by: Donna Gamache

Power Plays by Saskatchewan writer Maureen Ulrich tells the story of Jessie McIntyre, a 14-year-old girl who has moved with her family from Saskatoon to Estevan, a smaller centre in southeastern Saskatchewan, leaving behind her close friends and her ringette team. Fitting into grade nine at her new school is hard enough, but then Jessie runs afoul of another student, Kim Scott, and a round of bullying ensues, both at school and at home, via the Internet. When Kim persuades a group of older, really tough teens, led by a girl named Marsha, to go after Jessie at her home, things get very nasty. Jessie winds up in jail for a few hours. Her parents blame her, and in an attempt to straighten Jessie out, her mother signs her up to play hockey with the local girls' team. At first Jessie is reluctant, since her previous experience was with ringette, but the team is short players and they eagerly welcome her. Jessie discovers that she enjoys the game, and soon she has made several new friends who offer help in overcoming the bullying. But just when things seem great with the team, Kim Scott, who is a talented player but has been playing with a local boys' team, is also invited to join the girls' team, in an attempt to strengthen it for a run at the provincial playoffs. Now Jessie must deal with bullying on the ice and in the dressing room as well. Somehow she must learn to stand up to the bullies without resorting to violence herself. With the help of her new friends and a number of caring adults, she eventually manages to do so. The author has also managed to insert into the book, without seeming high-handed, a number of other topics, including elements of racism, peer pressure, parental pressure, sexism, and drug and alcohol abuse. There's also romance. Jessie becomes very interested in a handsome high school hockey player named Mark, and he seems to like her, but several misunderstandings seem to have put a stop to any possible relationship. Then Mark starts going out with Kim! Power Plays is Ulrich's first book, and it is well written. Ulrich lives in southeastern Saskatchewan where she has taught middle-grade students and worked in the oil field industry. She is obviously very knowledgeable about hockey and about many of the problems faced by teenagers today. I really enjoyed this book, and I'm sure readers from about twelve and up also will. There's enough exciting end-to-end hockey action to keep reluctant readers interested, with detailed descriptions of various games and tournaments that the girls play. There are enough other topics, especially the bullying aspect of the story, to interest those who are not sports-minded. I highly recommend this book. With all the underlying themes and topics included in the book, I believe it would be a good one for junior high teachers to include in class discussions. 'Donna Gamache is the author of Spruce Woods Adventure (Compascore Manitoba) as well as many short stories for both children and adults.

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